Trauma research on TV journalists covering killings revealed in Pacific Journalism Review

Part of the cover of the latest Pacific Journalism Review. Image: © Fernando G Sepe Jr/ABS-CBN

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

The statistics globally are chilling. And the Asia-Pacific region bears the brunt of the killing of journalists with impunity disproportionately.

Revelations in research published in the latest edition of Pacific Journalism Review on the trauma experienced by television journalists in the Philippines covering President Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called ‘war on drugs’ are deeply disturbing.

More than 12,000 people have reportedly been killed – according to Amnesty International, although estimates are unverified – in the presidential-inspired purge.

READ MORE: Killing the messenger

The latest Pacific Journalism Review.

According to UNESCO, about 1,010 journalists globally have been “killed for reporting the news and bringing information to the public” in the 12 years until 2017 – or on average, one death every four days.

Many argue that the Philippines, with one of the worst death tolls of journalists in the past decade, is a prime example of the crisis.


Journalists covering the “graveyard shift” were the first recorders of violence and brutality under Duterte’s anti-illegal drugs campaign.

The first phase in 2016, called Oplan Tokhang, was executed ruthlessly and relentlessly.

Chilling study
This chilling post-traumatic stress study in the latest PJR by ABS-CBN news executive Mariquit Almario-Gonzalez examines how graveyard-shift TV journalists experienced covering Oplan Tokhang.

The Tagalog phase in English means “to knock and plead” and was supposed to be bloodless – a far cry from the reality.

Almario-Gonzalez’s colleague, award-winning photographer Fernando G Sepe Jr, has also contributed an associated photoessay drawn from his groundbreaking ‘Healing The Wounds From the Drug War’ gallery.

He reflects on the impact of Duterte’s onslaught on the poor in his country.

Compared to the Philippines and other Asian countries – such as Cambodia, Indonesia and Myanmar – media freedom issues in the Pacific micro states and neighbouring Australia and New Zealand may appear relatively benign – and certainly not life threatening.

Nevertheless, the Pacific faces growing media freedom challenges.

The phosphate Micronesian state of Nauru banned the Australian public broadcaster ABC and “arrested” Television New Zealand Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver while she covered the Pacific Islands Forum leaders summit in September 2018.

Media freedom crises
In this context, Auckland University of Technology’s Pacific Media Centre marked its tenth anniversary in November 2017 with a wide-ranging public seminar discussing critical media freedom crises.

The “Journalism Under Duress in Asia-Pacific” seminar examined media freedom and human rights in the Philippines and in Indonesia’s Papua region – known as West Papua.

Keynote speakers included Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) executive director Malou Mangahas and RNZ Pacific senior journalist Johnny Blades.

Papers from this seminar and 14 other contributing researchers from seven countries on topics ranging from the threats to the internet, post-conflict identity, Pacific media freedom and journalist safety are featured in this edition of PJR.

Unthemed paper topics include representations of Muslims in New Zealand, ASEAN development journalism, US militarism in Micronesia and the reporting of illegal rhino poaching for the Vietnamese market.

The issue has been edited by Professor David Robie, director of the PMC, Khairiah A. Rahman of AUT, and Dr Philip Cass of Unitec. The designer was Del Abcede.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

‘Time of anxiety’ – a depressing new normal for local journalists in conflict zones

Afghan journalists light candles to remember the local reporters killed in last week’s Kabul bomb blast. Image: Hedayatullah Amid/EPA/The Conversation

By Colleen Murrell in Melbourne

For journalists who cover Afghanistan, the bombing that killed nine local reporters last week in Kabul was a sober reminder of the dangers the media continue to face in the country’s seemingly endless conflict.

The victims were not well-known foreign correspondents, but a group of courageous Afghan photographers, reporters and cameramen who had gone to report on another bomb blast that had exploded about 40 minutes earlier.

They included a photographer from the French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP), as well as contributors to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and several local media companies.

READ MORE: Free media week killings underscore crimes of impunity against journalists

Elsewhere on the same day, a 10th journalist was shot dead – a reporter for the BBC’s Pashto service, Ahmad Shah.

According to Reporters Without Borders, it was the deadliest single day for journalists in the country since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001.


The principal way we receive news from conflict zones like Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq is via eyewitnesses on social media and the global news agencies – AFP, Associated Press and Reuters. Agency reporters are often the first “media responders” to deadly incidents like suicide bombings and terror attacks. They also negotiate with local reporters on the ground to secure the best pictures, which then get relayed to the thousands of media companies around the world who subscribe to their services.

To feed this beast of global 24/7 news coverage, there is still an expectation that agency journalists will dare to tread where others will not.

Journalists as targets
Increasingly, this has become even more dangerous, as extremist groups like the Islamic State have shifted tactics to specifically target journalists.

The Afghan Journalists Safety Committee warned of “an unprecedented increase in threats and violence against journalists” in a 2017 report:

Increased threats from DAESH to media and journalists have created a new wave of concerns about the security of journalists and media. What is seriously worrying is the group’s direct attacks against media, which in 2017 is responsible for the vast majority of journalists’ deaths.

Reporters Without Borders says 34 journalists and media workers have died in attacks by the Islamic State and Taliban in Afghanistan since the start of 2016. The situation has become so dire that the group has called on the United Nations to appoint a special representative dedicated to protecting the lives of journalists. The proposal has been backed by French President Emmanuel Macron and the German Parliament.

Without adequate security provisions, journalists have also been abandoning countries that have become too dangerous, Reporters Without Borders notes in its 2017 annual report on reporters killed in the line of duty.

AFP continues to operate with a team of two or three foreign journalists in Kabul, backed up by seven full-time Afghan journalists and various stringers working across the country. Reuters employs just one foreign correspondent and one local journalist in Kabul, and AP has two local reporters and two local photographers.

Former BBC journalist Bilal Sarwary, who now works as a freelancer, tells me there are very few Western journalists left in Afghanistan because “Iraq and then Syria have commanded their attention” in recent years. He said The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post still have reporters based in the country, but now rely almost entirely on freelance photographers.

Responding to the new reality
Under global news director Michèle Léridon, AFP has been highly innovative at adapting to news gathering challenges, but also strict in its policy of not being made stooges by terrorists. According to Phil Chetwynd, AFP’s global editor-in-chief, the company is constantly evaluating its security procedures.

We have always been cautious about rushing to the scene of attacks. We have moved our office several times in Kabul to find a better location as the threat level has changed. We have sent security experts to review our procedures and to recommend physical reinforcements and measures to our buildings.

We have also sent reporters on hostile environment courses and sent trainers to Kabul to train all staff including non-journalists. The message to all our reporters remains that security comes first.

Chetwynd notes the suicide bomber who killed the nine Afghan journalists in Kabul last week – a group that included AFP photographer Shah Marai – had apparently been posing as a fellow reporter, a new tactic by terror groups.

“We are already changing and reacting to this appalling new reality,” he says.

It’s clear that all media organisations need to constantly rethink their strategies when it comes to reporting in conflict zones.

Media scholars, too, are tackling the issue. At the upcoming International Communications Association conference in Prague later this month, I will be joining other academics on a panel titled “Voices in journalism: Local news staff producing international news” to discuss the latest research examining the working conditions of stringers, fixers and local journalists.

Researched challenges
One of the panellists, Saumava Mitra, has researched the work of photojournalists in Afghanistan and co-authored an essay last week on the challenges they face:

We have seen that local journalists usually have much poorer access to hostile-environment training, work-hazard insurance or even medical benefits from their employers. They face different threats and risks than those who parachute into the conflict and have nowhere to go if the situation escalates.

They are also much more prone to reprisals. The first step to help prevent their deaths is to acknowledge that the news we consume is often produced by journalists working under precarious conditions in hostile places.

Marai, for one, always knew the dangers of working in Kabul, as his blog on the AFP website so devastatingly shows. In it, he recounts how life changed for the worse when the Taliban returned to stage attacks in Kabul in the mid-2000s:

“I don’t dare to take my children for a walk. I have five and they spend their time cooped up inside the house. Every morning as I go to the office and every evening when I return home, all I think of are cars that can be booby-trapped, or of suicide bombers coming out of a crowd. I can’t take the risk. So we don’t go out.

“I have never felt life to have so little prospects and I don’t see a way out. It’s a time of anxiety.”

Dr Colleen Murrell is undergraduate coordinator for journalism at Monash University, Melbourne, and the author of Foreign Correspondents and International Newsgathering: The role of fixers.This article was first published by The Conversation and is republished on Asia Pacific Report under a Creative Commons licence.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

David Robie – Free media week killings underscore crimes of impunity against journalists

Article by Professor David Robie (Café Pacific.)

MONDAY – just three days before today’s World Press Freedom Day – was the deadliest day for news media in Afghanistan in 17 years. The killing of nine journalists and media workers among 26 people who died in dual suicide bomb attacks in Kabul was the worst day for the press since the fall of the Taliban.

Five other journalists were wounded and a 10th journalist was shot and killed in a separate attack outside the capital.

Among the dead was Agence France-Presse chief photographer Shah Marai who left behind an extraordinary legacy of images.

READ MORE: Hatred of journalism threatens democracies

It was the also the most horrendous day for global media too since the Ampatuan massacre on the southern Philippines island of Mindanao on 23 November 2009. A shocking 32 journalists were murdered that day, most of the total death toll of 58 in an ambush on a pre-election cavalcade.

To date nobody has been successfully brought to justice. The scores of private militia “owned” by the Ampatuan family alleged to have carried out the killings have got away with their vile crime almost scot-free.

However, some suspects have been detained and others are out on bail.

Also, a military task force has launched a massive disarmament programme in Maguindanaoprovince in a bid to curb “vendetta-driven” crimes.

High-powered weapons
Twenty two high-powered weapons were handed in by the local mayor of an Ampatuan clan bringing the number of 439 firearms either “recovered or surrendered in Maguindanao and Sultan Kuarat in the past four months.

The Ampatuans handed over nine M79 grenade launchers, six Barret rifles, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, a mortar, an M16-A1 rifle, a Garand rifle, one Uzi and one carbine.

Eight years after the Ampatuan killings (also called the Maguindanao massacre), of the 197 men originally accused, only 13 have been brought before the court for judgement since the start of proceedings in January 2010 and more than 250 witnesses have been heard.

“It’s supposed to be the trial of the century. Yet eight years later, no convictions have been made in the Maguindanao massacre cases … the worst case of election-related violence in the Philippines,” writes Rappler journalist Sofia Tomacruz.

Asia-Pacific has clearly become the most dangerous region for journalists. More specifically, South Asia, according to a new International Federation of Journalists report that is being launched today.

The report, entitled Clampdowns and Courage: Press Freedom in South Asia 2017-18, says that a total of 33 journalists lost their lives across South Asia in the year ending April 2018, making it “the most dangerous region in the world for journalists”.

The latest attacks underscore the global targeting of journalists and the impunity that most of their killers enjoy.

‘Justice is elusive’
“In most of the cases of killing of journalists in South Asia, justice is elusive, says the IFJ.

“The 33 journalist colleagues whom we lost this year add to a long list of hundreds of slain journalists awaiting justice after being killed for carrying out their professional duties. The struggle for justice is a challenging process, and in many cases the process doesn’t even begin.”

The IFJ’s report highlights the case of leading editor Gauri Lankesh who was among the slain journalists.

“She was shot dead in Bengaluru in India in September 2017,” recalled the IFJ.

“Despite repeated commitments from authorities, it took six months to nab an accused, the suspected supplier of firearms where the actual shooters are still at large.”

The IFJ says in its report that more than 30 journalists have been killed over the past decades in India while doing their professional work.

Last week, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders warned over what it described as a “growing animosity towards journalists” around the globe.

“Hostility towards the media, openly encouraged by political leaders, and the efforts of authoritarian regimes to export their vision of journalism pose a threat to democracies,” says the media freedom agency.

The line separating verbal violence from physical violence is dissolving, says RSF.

Assassination threat
In the Philippines (falling six places to 133rd in the RSF World Press Freedom Index), President Rodrigo Duterte “not only constantly insults reporters but has also [has] warned them that they ‘are not exempted from assassination’.”

In India (down two places to 138th), “hate speech targeting journalists is shared and amplified on social networks, often by troll armies in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pay”.

In both countries, says RSF, at least four journalists were gunned down in cold blood in the space of a year – and a Filipino radio journalist, Edmund Sestoso, of DyGB 91.7FM in Dumaguete City, died on Tuesday after being shot by motorcycle gunman on April 30.

Also in the Philippines, encouraged by the aggressively anti-media stance of their president, the Congress initiated a “good news only” clampdown on the media reporting about the lawmakers barely a week before Media Freedom Day.

Reporters in the House of Representatives have protested against the new media accreditation rules that demand only positive coverage of the Congress, the lawmakers and its officials.

A 19-page draft policy statement distributed by the accrediting agency Press and Public Affairs Bureau (PPAB) says it seeks to ban journalists who “besmirch the reputation” of Congress, its officials and members.

Breaching a proposed six-point list of violations will mean cancellation of a journalist’s press identity card and being barred from covering Congress.

Ironically, the Philippines is also taking advantage of a Chinese agreement to help develop the infrastructure for government broadcasting system and has indicated it is “with China” in its approach to the freedom, of the press just when RSF has warned the Asia-Pacific region of Beijing’s impact on the media.

RSF says the Chinese model of state-controlled news and information “is being copied” in Asian countries. A warning too for the Pacific.

Pacific issues
In the Pacific, both Tonga (51st) and Papua New Guinea (53rd) have dropped two places, and Samoa one place (22nd).

The biggest climbs were by Fiji (up 10 places to 57th), New Zealand (five places to 8th) -back into the top 10 globally – and Timor-Leste three places to 95th.  Solomon Islands was unranked while Australia remained on 19th (mainly due to the concentrated media ownership in that country). Other Oceania nations were not cited.

This is especially surprising about Vanuatu, where the local newspaper Vanuatu Daily Post has been a leading example of press freedom and courageous journalism for a few years.

Although interest remains high about West Papua in the Pacific, the region is “lost” in the RSF ranking for Indonesia (which remains unchanged at 124th). President Joko Widodo is accused of “breaking his campaign promises” with his presidency marked by “serious media freedom violations, including drastically restricting media access to the Papua and West Papua provinces (the Indonesian half of the island of New Guinea), where violence against local journalists continues to grow”.
In Fiji, where the “chill” factor is still strong, the big test will come with the second post-coup election likely to be in September.

While acknowledging a modest freeing up of the media with the 2014 election, RSF says: “The media are nonetheless still restricted by the draconian 2010 Media Industry Development Decreeand the Media Industry Development Authority (MIDA) that it created. Violating the decree is punishable by up to two years in prison and the MIDA’s independence is questionable.”

However, New Zealand should not be too smug about its return to favour in the top 10 of world press freedom nations (due to the Commerce Commission’s rejection of the proposed merger of Fairfax and NZME with the threat to plurality).

RSF says there are still political pressures: “The media continue to demand changes to the Official Information Act, which obstructs the work of journalists by allowing government agencies a long time to respond to information requests and even makes journalists pay several hundred dollars for the information.”

While the threats to media freedom in Oceania remain fairly benign compared with much of the rest of the world, vigilance is needed.

And there is a challenge to journalism schools in New Zealand and the Pacific. They ought to put far more resources and teaching strategies into addressing how to keep young journalists safe in an increasingly hostile world for the media.

David Robie is convenor of the Pacific Media Centre’s Pacific Media Watch freedom project. This article was also written for Asia Pacific Report.

This article was first published on Café Pacific.

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Free media week killings underscore crimes of impunity against journalists

Report by Dr David Robie – Café Pacific.A press freedom protest in the Philippines capital of Manila over the latest killing of a radio
journalist this week. Image: RSF

By David Robie
MONDAY – just three days before today’s World Press Freedom Day – was the deadliest day for news media in Afghanistan
in 17 years. The killing of nine journalists and media workers among 26
people who died in dual suicide bomb attacks in Kabul wasThis article was first published on Café Pacific.

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Indonesian double standards over press freedom endanger safety of Papuan journalists

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Indonesian double standards over press freedom endanger safety of Papuan journalists

Street art posters in support of protecting journalists in a “free media” West Papua in Jakarta, Indonesia, during WPFD2017. Image: David Robie

Pacific Media Centre

Friday, November 24, 2017


It was ironical that the most evocative demonstration of freedom of the press in Indonesia since the draconian Suharto era two decades ago was also given a global black mark for attempting to “gag” free discussion over violations on its own geopolitical doorstep. Indonesian hospitality was widely praised for the four-day efforts in hosting World Press Freedom Day 2017, yet both Jakarta and UNESCO officials were acutely embarrassed over events in the easternmost West Papuan region (Robie, 2017a). Four days before the WPFD event got under way on April 30, prominent Papuan journalist Victor Mambor, editor-in-chief of Tabloid Jubi and a former chairperson of the West Papuan chapter of the Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (Alliance of Independent Journalists) between 2010 and 2016, had warned in the New Internationalist that Indonesian double standards had imposed a silence over West Papua (Mambor & Payen, 2017). Even a Papuan protest outside the Jakarta Conference Centre venue on World Press Freedom Day itself was kept at the margins, ensuring most of the 1,500 journalists, media academics and communication policy makers from 90 countries were unaware of the shocking press and human rights violations that continue almost daily in the Melanesian provinces of Papua and West Papua (collectively known as “West Papua” in South Pacific nations).

DOI: 10.1080/01296612.2017.1379812

Report by Pacific Media Centre

IFJ blasts ‘press freedom attack’ on Iranian-Kurdish journalist in PNG

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: IFJ blasts ‘press freedom attack’ on Iranian-Kurdish journalist in PNG

Two PNG police officers led away Behrouz Boochani in handcuffs on Manus Island earlier today. Image: Aziz58825713/Twitter

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) in condemning the reported arrest of Iranian-Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani by Papua New Guinea police earlier today.

The IFJ and MEAA have deplored the arrest as a targeted attack on press freedom by Papua New Guinea’s police.

A police operation was launched on Manus Island with PNG police and immigration officers entering the former Australian detention centre.

The centre was closed three weeks ago, but refugees have refused to leave, due to concerns over their safety.

Large numbers of officers, including the paramilitary police mobile squad unit entered the grounds and told the refugees they had an hour to leave. They tried to confiscate mobile phones and reportedly damaged personal belongings.

Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian-Kurdish journalist, was arrested during the raid, with reports that officers were specifically looking for him.


Silencing a critic
He was led away in handcuffs by two police officers.

Boochani has been in the detention centre on Manus Island since August 2013.

Boochani has been a main source of factual information about the conditions inside Manus Island detention centre, with his reports been published in Australia and internationally.

Earlier this year he was shortlisted in the journalism category for the 2017 Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Awards and just three weeks ago he was awarded the Amnesty International Australia Media Award for his journalism from Manus Island.

Earlier this year, MEAA and the IFJ launched a campaign with IFEX calling on the Australian government to resettle Boochani in Australia.

MEAA chief executive Paul Murphy said: “If, as the case appears to be, he has been targeted and arrested because of his profile and his role as a journalist in an attempt to silence him, this is an egregious attack on press freedom that cannot be let stand.

“We call on the Australian and PNG governments to release him from custody, assure his safety, and not to hinder him from continuing to perform his role as a journalist.”

The IFJ said: “The arrest of Behrouz Boochani, if it is because of his work as journalist, is a blatant attack of press freedom and an attempt to silence a critical voice. We join MEAA in calling for the Australian and PNG governments to release him for custody immediately, and guarantee his safety.

“Journalists should never be stopped from doing their work.”

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